Deshaun Watson suspended – What does it mean? And what’s next for the QB and the Cleveland Browns?

More than two years after the first civil lawsuit was filed against Deshaun Watson, Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson has suspended the Cleveland Browns quarterback for the first six games of the 2022 season, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Robinson, who was appointed jointly by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to rule on the case and determine any penalties, listened to arguments from the league, the union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing in her home state of Delaware in late June . The NFL had been pushing for a suspension of at least a year, while the union and Watson’s attorney argued that the quarterback shouldn’t be suspended at all. The sides discussed a possible settlement until the end of the hearing, but failed to reach an agreement.

In the days leading up to Robinson’s decision, the league and Watson’s side held further settlement talks, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but neither side ever felt close to an agreement. According to sources, the most Watson’s side were willing to offer was a suspension in the six- to eight-game range. The best the league was willing to offer was a 12-game suspension and a substantial fine — on the order of $8 million, sources said. While the NFLPA said it will not appeal the decision, the league still has the right to appeal.

Since March 2021, 25 civil lawsuits have been filed against Watson alleging actions ranging from inappropriate behavior to sexual assault during massage sessions. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped after the judge ruled that the motion needed to be amended with the plaintiff’s name. Watson and 20 of the other plaintiffs agreed to settle their lawsuits by the end of June. Early Monday morning, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr that Watson had agreed to settle three of the remaining four active lawsuits against him.

In mid-July, the Houston Texans reached settlements with 30 women who Buzbee said were willing to press claims against the organization over their alleged role in “enabling Watson’s behavior” while he was still on the team. One of those 30 women had filed a lawsuit against the Texans in June, but that case, too, Buzbee said, was settled.

Watson has claimed he is innocent of the allegations. Two grand juries in Texas declined to enter charges against Watson earlier this year. The Texans traded Watson for the Browns in March after the first grand jury announced it would not indict Watson.

With Robinson ruling on Watson’s suspension, what’s next for the quarterback and the Browns?

Where does Watson go from here?

He has the right to appeal, but the NFLPA issued a statement Sunday night saying it would not appeal Robinson’s decision and urging the NFL to do the same: “Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves.” it’s knowing that our process is legitimate and not being marred by the whims of the league office. Therefore, regardless of their decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by their decision.” According to the CBA, any appeal, either by the NFLPA or the league, “must be in writing within three business days of the disciplinary officer’s decision, and any response to the appeal must be filed in writing within two business days thereafter The appeal shall be limited to arguments why, based on the evidence below, the level of disciplinary action, if any, should be varied.” Agent or its agent will issue a written decision constituting a full, final and complete resolution of the Dispute and binding.”

What length of suspension did the Browns expect when they took over Watson?

The consensus within the organization immediately following the trade was that Watson would likely be suspended in the four to six game range, according to sources. When the Browns first made the trade, they knew a suspension — even for a season — was possible. They signed Watson and signed a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract, the richest deal in NFL history for a player. And sources say they remain committed to him.

Will the guaranteed $230 million stay?

Most of it will. Watson loses a total of $345,000 in game checks to the six-game suspension. He seems to keep the rest. In addition to Watson’s contract, there was a “paragraph 42” disclosure form, which in the contract – which relates specifically to allegations already made – protects Watson from losing guaranteed money should he be suspended for the 2022 or 2023 seasons, and also prevents that the Browns will void the contract if it is suspended. But the question is probably moot anyway. The Browns have given all indications that they plan to move forward with Watson as their franchise quarterback, according to sources. There’s nothing to suggest anything will change now that the Browns have clarity on discipline from the league.

What does the Browns’ quarterback room look like as the 2022 season kicks off?

Baker Mayfield, who was traded to the Carolina Panthers on July 6, will not be there. The Browns have planned to take on Jacoby Brissett – who has 37 career starts in New England, Indianapolis and Miami – as their starting quarterback during Watson’s suspension. With Josh Dobbs as the only other quarterback on the roster, Cleveland brought in former first-round pick Josh Rosen on a one-year contract. Rosen was the No. 10 draft pick in 2018 and has served time on five NFL teams. He will compete with Dobbs for the backup job behind Brissett. The Browns could also consider a trade in Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains on the block in San Francisco, as a bridge while Watson is out.

When can Watson return to the Browns?

Watson will continue to be able to attend training sessions and games throughout the pre-season. But he will have to stay away from the team for the first half of the suspension after the start of the regular season. According to the CBA, Watson is allowed to return and train with the Browns in the second half of the suspension, which would begin in Week 4.

What if more allegations surface, or what if he’s found liable in the remaining lawsuit?

Since Robinson has already decided against an indefinite suspension, the CBA does not provide clear guidance for such a scenario. However, the NFL had the opportunity to present Robinson with the case of the remaining active lawsuit. And if new allegations surface, the league could always investigate whether it, too, violated the personal conduct policy.

ESPN NFL reporter Sarah Barshop contributed to this story. Deshaun Watson suspended – What does it mean? And what’s next for the QB and the Cleveland Browns?

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